Welcome to Local Heroes, our new series featuring Detroiters working during the COVID-19 pandemic to take care of one another. We hope you’ll check in to meet and support these men and women who are truly making a difference and restoring our faith in humanity.

Freddy Diaz (aka SW Freddy)

Freddy Diaz, also known as SW Freddy, a Southwest Detroit artist renowned for his graffiti art across the city, recently teamed up with Vans to design a limited edition, custom, classic, slip-on shoe to support the popular Detroit music venue El Club. 

Due to the pandemic, El Club, which usually features nightly indie rock and hip-hop acts, was forced to cancel all shows through July and has been trying to stay afloat in other ways. 

As part of Vans Foot the Bill program, an initiative designed to help small businesses through the COVID-19 shutdown, El Club reached out to Freddy to create a slip-on shoe design that would represent both the venue and the Mexicantown neighborhood which the club calls home.  In 24 hours Freddy turned around an eye-popping coral design featuring dancing calacas which represent life, rebirth, and regeneration through the sounds of live music. Freddy often represents his Mexican heritage in his work and the shoe itself is a cultural ode to the arts in Detroit.

Custom Vans El Club Collab Classic Slip-On

“I think the shoe represents not only the venue but the community that the venue lives in. I feel it can go beyond that as well because it highlights Chicano culture.”

Click here to purchase the El Club limited edition custom classic slip-on shoe, which costs $90 and is limited to 500 pairs. All proceeds will benefit El Club’s overhead and staff of 16 employees. El Club is also offering curbside pizza, beer, and wine every Friday and Saturday from 5-10 PM. Call to order: (313) 375-5324.

Students in the FATE program

Kuhu Saha, the Executive Director at Give Merit and FATE helps underserved young people in Detroit embrace education, get into college, and go on to be world-class citizens.  

Since the pandemic, the world for FATE students has changed. Their parents have lost jobs and they’re taking care of their younger siblings or older family members. Access to online learning and technology is limited and the impacts the COVID-19 crisis has had on their mental and emotional health are overwhelming.

“We named our program FATE because a lot of people have predetermined the fate of our kids based on where they live, how much money their families make, and/or their skin color. We don’t subscribe to any of that. We believe that the fate of our kids is in their hands.”

While it has always taken a village of support, now more than ever, Kuhu and her FATE team are dedicated to providing individualized support to ensure that every senior will graduate from high school, is celebrated for it, and pursues his/her post-secondary plans. 

Students in the FATE program

“In the past several months, every inequity in our society has been magnified. It’s unacceptable, and it’s very upsetting. Even still, we believe our kids will prevail. They will create the future. All of us need people who believe in us, who push and motivate us, especially in times like these.”

Click here to support FATE programming.

David Landrum, Founder and CEO of Two James Spirits has pivoted from making his award-winning spirits at the distillery’s Corktown production facility to produce sanitizer for first responders.  

Two James has supplied sanitizer with an alcohol content of 80% to police and fire departments, hospitals as well as mortuaries, funeral homes, grocers and local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I believe I have seen the best and worst of people in the last few weeks.  We have seen people go above and beyond and put their own livelihood and personal health at risk to help pitch in and help their fellow women and men. We have also seen people’s unrelenting greed in a time of economic fear and uncertainty.  If anything positive can come from this crisis, it will be the fact that we realize just how little money matters and how much more the health and happiness of our communities and our loved ones matter.”

City of Detroit Fire Department and Two James Founder James Landrum

“Hopefully after this is all over, even if it costs a few extra bucks, we will embrace our small local stores and producers, our chefs, bartenders and servers, our mom and pop grocers, record stores and retailers and keep our communities thriving by paying it forward.”

Click here to support Two James or check out their Go Fund Me here